Follow the Footsteps of Local Artists at the Hudson River Skywalk

After years in the making, the scenic walkway connects Columbia and Greene Counties – and two legendary Hudson Valley painters.

After years in the making, the scenic walkway connects Columbia and Greene Counties – and two legendary Hudson Valley painters.

Almost 200 years ago, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church gazed at the Hudson River region for inspiration in their artistic journeys. The pioneers of the Hudson River School — a mid-19th century landscape painting movement — based their life’s works on the land cherished by Hudson Valley locals today.

Now, Hudson Valley residents and tourists can absorb the expansive views of the Catskills and the Hudson River, much like the disciples of the impactful artistic movement.

June 1, 2019 marked the opening of the Hudson River Skywalk, a scenic walkway along the Rip Van Winkle Bridge connecting the Thomas Cole Historic Site in Catskill and the Olana State Historic Site in Hudson.

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The Thomas Cole Historic Site, the Olana Partnership, and the New York State Bridge Authority collaborated on the project since the grant funding for the design and concept first began in 2016. Construction for the Skywalk occurred in three phases and was announced as a part of Gov. Cuomo’s tourism initiative in his 2018 State of the State address.

Hudson River Skywalk
At the opening ceremony for the Hudson River Skywalk / Photo by Chris Steber, NYS Bridge Authority

“This project is a perfect example of a successful public-private partnership between state and local partners promoting a unique part of New York State history and creating a timeless experience for generations to come,” Cuomo notes.

The walkway restructure aims to help visitors to find power and meaning within the Hudson Valley landscape while increasing cultural tourism to the region. Three new viewpoints, each 50 feet long and 10 feet wide, were added to the sidewalk on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to ensure safe viewings of the surrounding scenery.

The $11.1 million Hudson River Skywalk promotes an appreciation of natural beauty, as well as the artistic dedication of Cole and Church.

Hudson Skywalk
Actors portray Frederic Church and Thomas Cole. Photo by Olive Cadet, NYS Bridge Authority

On the west side of the Hudson River, Cole’s original home and studio still stand. As the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole’s Historic Site provides a close look at the artist’s life, including exhibits which showcase his paintings, events and programs, walking trails, and even guided tours.

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To the east, visitors can find the Olana State Historic Site, a 250-acre artist-designed masterpiece by Church, a friend and former student of Cole’s. Exemplifying Church’s interests in art, architecture, design, and environmental conservancy, the site enables visitors to peek inside the Persian-inspired home and a take in a 360-degree view of the Hudson Valley region from the estate’s summit.

With this new cultural route, visitors from far and wide—and even down the road—can explore artistic themes like preservation and landscape perspective for years to come.

Related: This Is How to Spend 24 Hours in Hudson

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